MBCT is focused on the use of various techniques that direct one’s attention in a manner that facilitates conscious choices. Among these techniques, the three-minute breathing space stands out for its effectiveness and simplicity.
Purpose of the Three-Minute Breathing Space
The three-minute breathing space is an intentional pause that provides an opportunity to make a mindful decision. It is particularly useful when individuals:
- Recognize they’re on autopilot;
- Experience an abundance of negative thoughts or rumination;
- Feel rising anxiety or physical symptoms such as restlessness, a racing heart, or flushing.
This technique is taught during MBCT sessions and serves as an aid to counteract these responses. While extensive meditation practices are integral to MBCT, the three-minute breathing space alone has demonstrated remarkable potency.
Execution of the Three-Minute Breathing Space
- Encourage the participant to embrace stillness, momentarily detaching from past or upcoming events.
- Assume a relaxed yet attentive posture.
- Release tension from areas such as the eyes, jaw, and shoulders.
- Ground oneself by placing feet flat on the floor, feeling the support of the chair and the earth.
- Either close the eyes or cast them downward to limit external visual stimuli.
- Mental Check-In: Observe the current state of mind without trying to alter any thoughts.
- Emotional Check-In: Identify and acknowledge any present emotions.
- Physical Check-In: Conduct a quick body scan from head to feet, noting any sensations.
- Focus on Breathing: Direct attention to the breath, identifying where it’s most noticeable in the body.
- Expand Awareness: Shift attention to encompass the whole body, recognizing its existence in the present moment.
Once the exercise concludes, invite participants to gently reopen their eyes or adjust their gaze, assessing any shifts in their internal state.
Implications and Application
This technique, akin to an hourglass, serves as a grounding tool, improving internal capacity. It aids individuals in avoiding being overly influenced by their thoughts or emotions. Instead of attempting to change them, they learn to anchor in the present. The overarching goal of MBCT is not merely to sharpen meditation skills but to apply these techniques in daily life. This approach promotes reactions that are measured, compassionate, and supportive, beneficial during both joyous times and moments of anxiety or despair.